Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
The Russian campaign of toxic behavior continues, pouring more kerosene on the media conflagration Russia created. Nezavisimaya Gazeta criticizes the head of the Russian church over his confrontational policies.
Moldova now sees calls for the Russian church to be replaced by the Romanian church – like in Ukraine, under Russian occupation, the Russian church gained a foothold. Numerous analyses and op-eds.
Pew 2017 report below, it determined that only 7% of Russians were practicing Orthodox, yielding perhaps 10 million genuine believers and supporting claims that the true size of the Russian church is comparable to the Romanian and Ukrainian churches, if not smaller.
The Russian Orthodox Church has called on the Constantinople Patriarchate to apologize for dividing the Orthodox world by supporting Ukraine’s bid for an independent church, a church spokesman said Monday. Last week, The Russian Orthodox Church said it had decided to sever all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople over its endorsement of Ukraine’s request for an “autocephalous,” or independent, church. Critics of Ukraine’s plan for an independent church say it could lead to violence and forced takeovers of churches loyal to the Russian church. The spokesman for Patriarch Kirill of Moscow said Monday that the Russian church would be willing to restore dialogue if Constantinople “recognizes the fallaciousness of its actions and decisions and apologizes for causing significant damage to the entire Orthodox world.” “If a single drop of blood is shed in Ukraine, then the guilt and responsibility for that drop of blood will be entirely on Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew,” he was cited as saying by the state-run TASS news agency. Earlier, President Vladimir Putin vowed to defend Russian church believers in Ukraine from any illegal activity against them following Kiev’s move toward a historic split from the Russian Church.
Paul Goble Staunton, October 21 – The Moscow Patriarchate’s “categorical” unwillingness to reach any compromise with its opponents may make some Russians happy, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say; but its approach under Patriarch Kirill not only violates Christian principles but undermines the possibility of maintaining Russian influence in churches abroad. Kirill and his church have often been criticized by commentators who follow church affairs for rigidity even as others denounce him and it for contacts with the Vatican and the ecumenical movement, but this lead article shows that such criticism is spreading to more mainstream outlets and that in turn may mean that Kirill’s position is at increasing risk. According to the editors, the Russian church in the current crisis over Ukrainian autocephaly has shown “a fatal inability to compromise,” even as its opponents have outmaneuvered it at every turn. As a result, they say, Moscow can no longer count on its usual allies and is losing influence everywhere (ng.ru/editorial/2018-10-21/2_7336_red.html). The most recent example of this, Nezavisimaya gazeta says, is Moscow’s decision to break with Constantinople, an action that Constantinople didn’t reciprocate and that few of Moscow’s alliesfollowed, thus making Kirill’s move not only an empty gesture but one that highlights Moscow’s isolation and limits its ability to move forward. But this is hardly the only such case, the paper continues. Last December, Moscow didn’t know how to respond in a useful way to feelers from Kyiv seeking a compromise and the consequence was that the Ukrainian political authorities and the Orthodox there have moved toward independence from Moscow. And in an example of “the big being reflected in the small,” the Moscow Patriarchate banned from further service a Minsk priest who photographed Patriarch Kirill’s limousine, saying that he was working for Constantinople. By so doing, the paper says, the Moscow Patriarchate got unanimity but only at the price of losing an interlocutor and the media war. “The Russian Orthodox Church keeps stressing its unity with Russian society” to justify its approach, the paper says; but “the mission of the church” which is to find compromise and to turn the other cheek is otherwise. Unfortunately, Kirill only wants to talk about the defense of his “’canonical territory’” and “expel from its ranks ‘the fifth column.’” Such an approach only guarantees that Moscow’s church and thus Moscow itself will lose “even more” in the future.
Paul Goble Staunton, October 22 – Despite the fact that Ukraine’s Orthodox church is about to be granted autocephaly and ever more people in Belarus are expressing hope that their country will be the next to escape from under the yoke of the Moscow Patriarchate, few have paid attention to another Orthodox country where the subordination of Orthodoxy is very much in play. According to the 2004 census in Moldova, 93.3 percent of that country’s population are Orthodox. They are divided between the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which, although autonomous, is under the control of Moscow and the Orthodox Church of Bessarabia, also autonomous but under the Romanian Orthodox Church. Tensions between the two churches, always high because of the political orientations they embody, the first toward Moscow and the second toward the West, are rising, with Moldova’s pro-Russian president Igor Dodon saying that Romania has tried to block a visit by Moscow Patriarch Kirill (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2018/10/20/igor_dodon_rol_patriarha_ochen_vazhna/). That visit albeit shortened to only two days will now begin five days from now During the visit, Kirill is scheduled to visit the northern and southern regions of Moldova as well as meet with Dodon and other officials in Chisinau, Moscow’s Russian Orthodox Russkaya Liniya portal says. The Metropolitanate of Moldova, a self-administrating part of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was founded in 1813 and currently has “more than 1200 parishes,” the Russian portal says. The Romanian church, it says, appeared on Moldovan territory only after 1991. (In fact, it has a much longer history.) In the 1990s, the Moldovan government, fearing a church schism, refused to register the latter church, but in 2001, the European Court for Human Rights insisted that it do so, and since that time, there have been two registered Orthodox hierarchies in Moldova, each very much hostile to the other. There are in fact rumors that people connected with the Bessarabian church plan to organize protests during Kirill’s visit. Those are especially likely because of an event now slated to take place on Thursday, the day before Kirill arrives in Moldova. On that date, Bartholemew, the Universal Patriarch, will be in Bucharest to dedicate a new Orthodox cathedral. Some expect he will also declare that only the Bessarabian church has the right to the canonical territory of Moldova. If that happens, such a declaration could lead to a religious and political explosion in Moldova with Moscow seeking to defend its position by relying on the Gagauz, a Turkic but Russian Orthodox nation, and on the hierarchy of the pro-Russian church there and Romania weighing in for the Universal Patriarch and Moldova autocephaly.
By Peter Welby* “The biggest split in Christianity for 1,000 years,” screamed the headline in Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, announcing the decision of the most senior bishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church to recognize the independence of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church from that of Russia. That headline pulls in the reader but overstates the crisis. A split in the Christian Church in the 16th century by some estimates cost up to 17 million lives across Europe by the end of the 17th century. It became known as the Reformation. That is not to say there is no crisis. As with many, if not most, splits in the history of Christianity — at least for the past 1,500 years — politics is just as significant as theology, and in this case perhaps more so. To describe the Eastern Orthodox Church as a Byzantine institution is no exercise in hyperbole. It can trace its direct political ancestry to the Emperor Constantine. Its most senior bishop lives in Istanbul, which the church still calls Constantinople. And — perhaps unsurprisingly for a church that was set up by an emperor — its theology often ties it to government. That often makes it a nationalist church, which is reflected in its structure. It is made up of 15 (now 16) autocephalous local churches that recognize one another as part of the same wider church, but are almost entirely independent of each other. At the center of the network sits the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople, recognized as the first among equals by the leaders of the different churches. Those churches are usually closely tied to their local governments, perhaps none more so than the Russian Orthodox Church. The breakup of empires, then, has often led to tensions in the churches as newly formed independent states want their own independent church, as happened in Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Russian Orthodox Church does not like splits. According to The Times newspaper, archbishops of Canterbury are routinely welcomed to their post with a letter from the patriarch of Moscow declaring them to be anathema, cheerily signed “with best wishes.” But politically, when the splitters are from its own jurisdiction, the hatred is real and has consequences.
The separation of the Ukrainian Church from Moscow owes a great deal to political disputes and has nothing to do with theological differences
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC KP) expects that a united assembly of the orthodox churches will be held before …
Press secretary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) says the main risk factor for the unification process of Ukraine churches would be an attempt of external intervention and influence on its individual participants to disrupt or slow down the procedure. “It seems to me that logical and correct would be the approach to continuing the unification process that would exclude dependence on categorical destructive actions,” he said, according to the Ukrainian news outlet Glavred. According to the cleric, church unity is a voluntary process, not a forced one. “And if someone, especially under a far-fetched pretext or the one provoked by some external forces, refuses to participate in the process or tries to block it, then I believe the unification process should move on, and such a person or persons should not become an insurmountable obstacle,” Zorya said. The archbishop expressed the opinion the efforts and steps that had already been taken by the Ukrainian churches, the Ukrainian state, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the path toward unity were so significant and valuable that no one in charge would allow any attempts to make the process anyone’s hostage. “It is no longer possible to hinder the unification process. After all, a strong canonical base has been created, while there is a strong will both in Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” the UOC-KP press secretary said, adding that there would be attempts to disrupt the process, while the ultimate “initiators of such attempts are Moscow forces both abroad and here in Ukraine.” “Therefore, our common task, both of the churches and the state, and the society as a whole, is to prevent them from enjoying even the slightest success,” Zorya said. According to the press secretary, nearly 10 bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) support the unification process, and it will be clear how many will take part in the unification council in the process of its preparation. Zorya predicts that after receiving a tomos, the majority of those who are now part of the Moscow Patriarchate will join the Ukrainian Church. “According to my forecasts, this will continue for several years and, as a result, at least two-thirds of those who are with the MP will join the Ukrainian church,” he said. In addition, Zorya said the Unification Council would elect the head of the unified church, but so far not a single candidate, except for “the candidacy of Patriarch Philaret, whom we as bishops of the Kyiv Patriarchate will nominate and support as the Patriarch of the unified church, has not been voiced by anyone.” Therefore, it is hypothetically possible to say that the Council may choose any worthy hierarch from among the Ukrainian bishops to take part, Zorya said. “If we talk about the possibility of electing Metropolitan Onufriy [Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate], it should be noted so far he has not shown any desire to be a participant in the unification process. Therefore, the question is whether he may take helm of the unified local church is rhetorical,” the Archbishop said. Zorya also noted the idea of placing the autocephalous church on the Moscow Patriarchate’s fairway as a way to prevent Russian provocations is, in fact, no better than the proposals of Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov on the federalization of Ukraine or the autonomous status for the occupied Donbas. “Our task is to do everything so that the Unified Local Orthodox Church will in no way be under the influence of Moscow in the future. Our natural ally and the Pan-Orthodox center we were guided by and will be oriented to is the Ecumenical Patriarchate. And with the Moscow Patriarchate we would like to have the same relationship as with all other local churches, which exclude the possibility of subordination to Moscow or following its political interests,” Zorya said.
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko congratulated Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the 27th anniversary of the enthronement as the Ukrainian leader reported on Facebook. “His Holiness Bartholomew, the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch celebrates the 27th anniversary of the enthronement today. I am deeply grateful to His Holiness for the pray and support of the strivings of the Ukrainian nation!,” Poroshenko wrote.
Schism over Ukraine rattles church and wider relations across eastern Europe
Between 1991 and 2008, the share of Russian adults identifying as Orthodox Christian rose from 31% to 72%, according to data from the International Social Survey Programme. During the same period, the share of Russia’s population that does not identify with any religion dropped from 61% to 18%.
Concentrated in Europe, Orthodox Christians have declined as share of the global Christian population, from 20% in 1910 to 12% today. But the Ethiopian community is highly observant and growing.
An explosion occurred in the building of a religious organization ‘Dobraya Vest’ in Kerch near the polytechnic college, where a massacre with numerous victims took place. The press office of “Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia in Crimea” reported. The information on the explosion on the first floor of the building was received at 12:30 p.m. It was established that a gas-air mixture exploded without destroying the structures of the building.